Socially-distanced Santas keeping Christmas magic alive at Gulliver’s Valley, Cannon Hall Farm and Lotherton Hall
Taking a child to see Father Christmas can be one of the most magical experiences of the festive season but as with almost everything this year, the coronavirus pandemic has made life somewhat more complicated.
However, with Government confirmation this weekend that Santa’s grottos are able to open across all tiers, albeit with social distancing in place, family attractions across Yorkshire have been finalising their preparations to welcome Father Christmas and his elves to their grounds in the coming days and weeks.
Following the publication of official Cabinet Office guidance on Sunday that grottos would be permitted to welcome in children all over England as long as they are in venues that are allowed to open, on Monday Downing Street stated Father Christmas will not need to wear a mask but children will be barred from sitting on is knees.
The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “We know that meeting Father Christmas is a magical experience for children which is why he will be taking safety precautions including ensuring that he is operating in a Covid-secure way, but it won’t be required for Santa to wear a mask.”
In light of the latest guidance, Gulliver’s Valley near Rotherham has been adapting its plans for its weekend openings in the run-up to Christmas.
Julie Dalton, managing director of Gulliver’s Theme Park Resorts, says Santa will now be able to move around the outdoor part of the site.
“Last week we thought we couldn’t have Father Christmas at all but it changed over the weekend,” she says. “We are also running an interactive toy shop where families can see the elves. Father Christmas will move around the site and he will be in a show at our castle.”
Dalton says making changes to adapt to various Covid regulations has become a familiar experience since the park opened this year.
“What we have done is adapt the product. It felt like a normal day to visitors in summer because we worked really hard in the background to prepare everything.
“We are spending a lot of time just reworking our product, it feels like almost every five minutes we are reworking everything. It is really tiring.”
Meanwhile, Cannon Hall Farm near Barnsley has come up with a Santa parade, which will give children a chance to see Father Christmas and his head elf in an outdoor environment.
Instead of the farm’s normal ‘Breakfast with Santa’ event, this year he will be doing a parade loop around the farm’s sheep racing arena, with elves on hand to ensure social distancing is in place around the track and to move customers in and out of each session.
A spokesman said: “We pride ourselves on our adaptability – and one thing we did not want was to leave children disappointed.
“Let’s face it – when we announced this event it isn’t what any of us had in mind.
“But we know that – due to the tight restrictions many attractions have decided not to bother with Santa this year – which is undoubtedly the easiest option.
“However, that’s not for us. We’ve decided to carry on to make it as special as we can.”
Meanwhile, Lotherton Hall near Leeds is bringing back its Christmas Experience for a fifth year but with Santa and his elves taking up residence in the Elf Village this year.
There is an opportunity to meet Father Christmas in his cabin, while for slightly older children the experience also includes a chance to take home some magical reindeer food for Rudolph and post a letter to the North Pole, as well as hearing stories and elf tales.
Dalton from Gulliver’s says while some people may be disappointed at children having to keep a distance from Father Christmas, it is a consolation that events have been able to go ahead in a revised form to normal.
“The most important thing is we keep everybody safe and keep the magic there for the kids, they need it a bit this year.”
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